Fitch Ratings has also revealed the timing for the first coal shipment through the port, something that Adani’s operating company Bravus has been reluctant to reveal.
It said Bravus Mining had signed a contract for 9.3 million tonnes a year beginning July 1, next year, to service its Carmichael coal mine, which is near completion in the Galilee Basin. It also has a short-term capacity contract for 4.6 mtpa starting August 2021, of which 2.5 mtpa is on take-or-pay basis.
The port, previously known as Abbot Point, has been controversial in recent years as Adani devised plans to export its coal from the Galilee Basin through the facility, near Bowen.
At various times it has been hit with heavy fines for spillages and the environmental approvals for its expansion plans were rewritten three times as protests against Adani mounted against it.
It was also found guilty of unconscionable conduct and fined $179 million over its dealings with four companies that use the port. That ruling was then overturned on appeal.
Fitch said the company’s financing options were limited and lenders were concerned about environmental issues relating to assets linked to coal.
“This compounds the refinancing risk of NQXT’s bullet debt maturities. Failure to complete debt refinancing well in advance of scheduled maturities could result in negative rating action,” Fitch said.
“The port’s reliance on coal limits the senior secured rating, even though a majority of the coal that passes through the port is metallurgical, which Fitch regards as having less risky long-term demand than thermal coal. Australian exporters are vulnerable to long-term changes in global coal-market dynamics, but Fitch believes NQXT is resilient against low coal prices.
Fitch said the factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade were the failure to complete debt refinancing well in advance of scheduled maturities and a decline in contracted capacity due to customer default or non-renewal of contract.
“A near-term upgrade is unlikely due to the risk associated with refinancing upcoming debt maturing in 2022,” Fitch said.
Fitch gave the NQXT an ESG relevance score of 5 for management strategy. Scores of 4 and 5 indicated that the ESG risk was either an emerging risk or contributing factor to the credit decision. In the case of a 5 Fitch considered it to be a risk which by itself had actually driven a rating change.
Adani said the specific details of its funding arrangements for the terminal are commercial in confidence and Fitch’s announcement had no impact on the continued operation of the North Queensland Export Terminal.
“The North Queensland Export Terminal will continue to operate successfully as it has done for more than 35 years,” the company said.
“We are proud to provide an essential export service for our customers and the state of Queensland.”
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